Episode 401: Stegosaurus with Susannah Maidment, the world’s leading expert on Stegosaurus. She joins us to discuss the largest known stegosaur, 3D scanning the most complete dinosaur from the UK, and what makes Stegosaurus so unique.
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Susannah Maidment, principal researcher and curator of the archosaurs at the Natural History Museum in London. She has published more than 50 scientific papers and is an expert on stegosaurs. Her research includes systematics, anatomy, and taxonomy of ornithischians, geological context of dinosaur evolution, and dinosaur biodiversity.
The dinosaur of the day: Mercuriceratops
- Chasmosaurine ceratopsid that lived in the Late Cretaceous in what is now Alberta, Canada (Dinosaur Park Formation), and Montana, U.S. (Judith River Formation)
- Looked like other ceratopsians, walked on all fours, had a large frill, had brow horns and a beak
- Estimated to be around the same size as Chasmosaurus, about 14–15.7 ft (4.3–4.8 m) long
- As a chasmosaurine, probably had two long brow horns and a short nose horn
- Two main groups of ceratopsians: chasmosaurs (generally had long neck frills, short nasal horns, large brow horns) and centrosaurines (generally had short frills, large nasal horns, short brow horns)
- Probably had a parrot-like beak
- Mercuriceratops helps show more variation in ceratopsid frills and skull ornamentation
- Had a unique frill, with wing-like protrusions on the sides of the frill (described as a butterfly-shaped frill, or neck shield)
- Also has been described as like the decorative fins on classic 1950s cars
- Squamosal skull bones were hatchet shaped and stuck out from the side
- Skull ornamentation probably used to identify each other and attract mates, in addition to defense
- Type species is Mercuriceratops gemini
- Fossils first found in 2007 by Tribold Paleontology Inc (frill elements)
- Described in 2014 by Michael Ryan and others
- Genus name means “Mercury horned face” and refers to the Roman god Mercury, because the wing-like ornamentation on the head is similar to the winged helmet
- Species name refers to the constellation Gemini, named for the twins Castor and Pollux, because two very similar specimens were found (one in Canada, one in the U.S.)
- Two specimens found were nearly identical (squamosals from the right side of the skull), which helps show these fossils were probably not distorted or crushed or a pathology
- Specimens found about 236 mi (380 km) from each other
- Fossil in Montana collected on private land and acquired by the Royal Ontario Museum
- Fossil from Canada collected by Susan Owen-Kagen from the University of Alberta
- Holotype may be a subadult, and referred specimen is a little larger and probably older
- Mercuriceratops is part of the Southern Alberta Dinosaur Project, which focuses on dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous found in Alberta and Montana
- Represents the oldest known chasmosaurine from Canada found at the time, and “the first pre-Maastrichtian ceratopsid to have been collected on both sides of the Canada–US border”
- Other animals that lived around the same time and place include ceratopsids, amphibians, fish, crocodilians, and lizards
Stegosaurus was the second Ornithischian ever animated.
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